Liverpool are not as far off success as some might think, despite their poor start to the season…
Liverpool fans could be forgiven for thinking that their season is effectively over by Christmas – with Brendan Rodgers’ side sitting a lowly tenth in the Premier League, while they have already been knocked out of the Champions League.
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However, Sunday’s dramatic 2-2 draw with Arsenal at Anfield proved that things are not as bad as one might think. In fact, there were lots of positives to take from the game, despite another frustrating result in a game the home side dominated for long periods.
In truth, neither side were at the best, but Rodgers will have at least been impressed by his squad’s character and determination, with their reaction to falling behind proving that the playing squad remain firmly behind their leader.
Martin Skrtel – who emphasised that point no end – fully deserved his late header after receiving treatment for a nasty cut on his head, and Liverpool must now take that momentum into winnable fixtures against Burnley, Swansea and Leicester either side of the New Year.
The Reds then face three consecutive away fixtures against AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup, Sunderland and Aston Villa, and could conceivably be coming off a very positive run of results by the time they host Chelsea in the Capital One Cup semi-finals in late January.
Meanwhile, former Liverpool player Mark Lawrenson, who called the Reds “rudderless” just 11 days ago, also believes Rodgers’ side are now showing signs of recovery, crediting the Northern Irishman for introducing a more effective 3-4-3 formation.
The start of 2015 will be crucial to deciding Rodgers future at Liverpool. The Reds are just three games away from lifting a trophy at Wembley, and will be confident of overcoming either Tottenham or Sheffield United if they can knock Chelsea out of the League Cup.
While Liverpool’s Champions League run has come to an abrupt end, they now have a realistic shot at silverware, with a run in the Europa League arguably a more attractive proposition than a two-legged tie with Porto, which would have been their reward for beating Basel.
January also marks the re-opening of the transfer window, and Liverpool must recruit in a smarter fashion that they did in the summer, if they are to have any chance of success in either competition, or re-claiming a place in the top four.
What do they need? Three players would represent an excellent window for Rodgers, who must also dispose of some dead wood – think Fabio Borini, Jose Enrique, Suso and even Mario Balotelli to raise funds, although the latter is likely to be given another six months to improve.
There is little doubting the fact that he needs a goalkeeper first and foremost. Simon Mignolet looks to be bereft of confidence, and it will be a long, hard road back to the first team for the Belgian, after he was unceremoniously dropped in favour of Brad Jones – who is surely a Championship keeper at best. A loan deal for Chelsea’s Petr Cech would be an excellent deal.
Despite the signings of Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo, Liverpool still look short at the back, and have been shipping goals left, right and centre. A new centre back with leadership qualities akin to Jamie Carragher or Daniel Agger would represent an important investment.
Rodgers is clearly not taken with Mamadou Sakho, and needs a quality partner for Skrtel at the heart of defence, with Kolo Toure ready to serve as versatile back-up. There are plenty of options available, but Rodgers cannot afford another Lovren-shaped mistake.
A striker is the other obvious area to improve. Liverpool need a player capable of matching the pressing style they favour, as well as someone who can ease the pressure on Raheem Sterling and the soon to return Daniel Sturridge, who will be the other main source of goals.
This is, of course, easier said than done. Rodgers needs a proven goalscorer, but it depends what funds he has at is disposal. Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette would perhaps be the ideal man, with the 23-year-old French international on 19 goals already this season.
Get in three more players and things could be looking up once again for Brendan Rodgers, who still has the opportunity to win three competitions this season. Fail, and he could find himself out of a job come the end of the current campaign.
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